What are the Risks of Insufflation?

Many men and women suffering from drug addiction choose to insufflate, or snort, substances because it provides a quick effect and is seen as less harmful that other routes of administration. As the opioid epidemic continues to grow, many people struggling with pain-killer addiction choose insufflation because it allows the drug to enter the bloodstream more quickly and has a higher bioavailability, that is, more of the drug is absorbed by into the body. Insufflation is by no means safe. It carries many different possible health risks and complications.
Snorting drugs creates an increased risk of developing physical dependence. Researchers from the University of Arizona’s Methamphetamine and Other Illicit Drug Education theorize that this greater risk of physical dependence comes from the increased euphorigenic effects of drug insufflation. They also believe that rapidly administered drugs have more addictive potential because they are reinforcing, a theory “based on the idea that behaviors/actions that are rewarded more quickly tend to be more reinforcing.” Any time that a drug is taken by a route of administration that it was not designed for, such as intravenous injection or insufflation of oral pills, the potential for addiction, health complications, and overdose become markedly increased.
Dr. Richard Lebowitz, associate professor at New York University’s Department of Otolaryngology, explains in a 2017 Time Health article, that the risks of insufflation are apparent from the act of snorting rather than just the drug effects: “The human nose is not designed to snort powder. Snorting powder of any kind can lead to inflammation of the nasal lining, infection in the lungs and blockages of respiratory tracts and nasal airways. This occurs because powders are particle materials and can often have additional materials mixed in them that cause further deterioration.” These infections can be extremely destructive and require medical intervention. A 2012 clinical narrative in The Journal of Medical Toxicology examined the ability for insufflation of opioid painkillers to create infections causing severe tissue death of the soft palate. The complications resulting from drug abuse by insufflation are devastating. A user will exacerbate their addiction to the insufflated substance while putting him or herself at risk for major physical health problems.

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